It Tolls for Thee

At 78, illness and death seem to have become constant companions. On every semi-annual visit to Vancouver to visit with fellow teachers, I’m handed the obituary of at least two teachers who have died since my last visit. Though I personally have known only one person who has died from Covid-19, it is a constant reminder that Death is waiting around the next corner.

None of that made it any easier when I learned a year and half ago that Cory, my son-in-law, had a brain tumor.  He was originally given six months to live,  but he managed to live eighteen months before succumbing to the tumor this morning.

Despite majoring in English in college and spending a lot of time writing on this blog, I think words are virtually meaningless when it comes to something as profound as the death of a loved one.  That said, John Donne’s “No man is an island” definitely reminds me of Cory’s large family and numerous friends who are all feeling the loss of a vital part of their lives.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; 
It tolls for thee. 

11 thoughts on “It Tolls for Thee”

  1. I know this particular path through the valley only too well. I lost my younger brother to a brain tumor in 1993, 12 months after it was discovered. It took me a long time to work through all the different emotions and reactions I had – it was years before I could have a real conversation about him. Even now, sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed with the things my mother needs (or the things my sisters, all of whom live out of town, think she needs), I’ll think “dammit I was supposed to have a brother to help with this”. It’s a selfish feeling, but there it is, 27 years later. My heartfelt feelings of sorrow go out to you and your son-in-law’s family.

  2. Death, the most obvious surprise…
    Life’s but an echo, a thin disguise…
    For what it’s not, what it implies.
    This mortal soul, immortalized…
    Puff of wind, drop of dew
    An unreasonable reason…
    Without a clue.

    Joe Goleneski

  3. Dear Loren
    My heart lurched and twisted as I read your news. Words are totally meaningless in the face of having to deal with those who are gone before their time. I live with a benign meningioma – the surgeon wants it out. Iam not ready to commit and Covid has become a good excuse. But living with this walnut perched on my brain has clarified so much – squeeze, tease and wring out every second that one has. And above all, be kind – it takes so little and gives so much. I loved Joe ‘s poem as well – very Buddhist in its acknowledgement that we are here so briefly like a drop of dew, and generally ‘without a clue’ .thank you got sharing,

    1. I’ll have to admit that each of my three cancers has reminded me that I need to savor every day — which is probably why I find Covid-19 so frustrating. At 78 I don’t have too much longer to live, and I don’t want to live it as a virtual prisoner. On the other hand, I definitely don’t want to be responsible for spreading the disease and possibly being responsible for the death of someone I love.

  4. I’m sorry for your loss.

    I wish I had something brilliant to add, something that would make the hurt go away, but I’ve got nothing. Just know I’m thinking of you and your family.

  5. I’m sorry for your loss. I lost my father to a brain tumor. We care for them during their illness, we mourn them, but we can’t really understand their unique journeys. I feel we can only observe and reflect.

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